Monday, July 12, 2010

Exploring the Creative Commons; Sgt. Rizzo, Advising.

 My brother-in-law is a smart cookie, smarter than I ever hope to be. I play catch-up a lot to him, and that’s fine, because in conversing with him (as we do through blog posts and comments, rarely face-to-face, as we’re both shy, reserved individuals) I’ve learned a lot.

So today I’m learning about Creative Commons licensing, just to find out what the hoo-hah is. I’m starting at the source at, which offers, by the way, excellent explanations of the various licenses the organization recognizes.

Here, I’ll briefly recap the offered licenses:

Attribution. You authorize others to distribute, alter, or build upon your work – even for profit – as long as they give you credit for the original creation.
  • Attribution Share Alike. You authorize others to distribute, alter, or build upon your work – even for profit – as long as they give you credit for the original work and license it under similar terms.
  • Attribution No Derivatives. You authorize the commercial and non-commercial distribution of your work, as long as you get the credit for it.
  • Attribution Non-Commercial. Same as Attribution above, but they must agree not to profit from your work or theirs.
  • Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike. Same as Attribution Share Alike, but they must agree not to profit from your work or theirs.
  • Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives. Same as Attribution No Derivatives above, but they must agree not to profit from your work or theirs.
That’s all well and good. And then Sgt. Luther Rizzo comes into the room and, with his Louisiana drawl, says, “Awl ah wahnt is mah monaaayyyyy.”

So, how do people who license their creations under a Creative Commons license get paid? Or should they be?

Yes, the folks at say. Here’s an excerpt from their FAQ:
Can I still make money from a work I make available under a Creative Commons licenses?

Absolutely. Firstly, because our licenses are non-exclusive which means you are not tied down to only make a piece of your content available under a Creative Commons license; you can also enter into other revenue-generating licenses in relation to your work. One of our central goals is to encourage people to experiment with new ways to promote and market their work.

Secondly, the noncommercial license option is an inventive tool designed to allow people to maximize the distribution of their works while keeping control of the commercial aspects of their copyright. To make one thing clear that is sometimes misunderstood: the "noncommercial use" condition applies only to others who use your work, not to you (the licensor). So if you choose to license your work under a Creative Commons license that includes the “noncommercial use” option, you impose the ”noncommercial” condition on the users (licensees). However, you, the creator of the work and/or licensor, may at any time decide to use it commercially. People who want to copy or adapt your work, "primarily for monetary compensation or financial gain" must get your separate permission first.

One thing to note on the noncommercial provision: under current U.S. law, file-sharing or the trading of works online is considered a commercial use -- even if no money changes hands. Because we believe that file-sharing, used properly, is a powerful tool for distribution and education, all Creative Commons licenses contain a special exception for file-sharing. The trading of works online is not a commercial use, under our documents, provided it is not done for monetary gain.
Okay, Sgt. Rizzo says.

So I write that book. I license it under a Creative Commons license – let’s say one of the non-commercial ones to start with; that seems the most conservative. I also file copyright notice with the United States, so I can defend my copyright in court (the folks at suggest this). I put my book out on the Internets for everyone to see and for those really wound up about it, to alter in any way they see fit, as long as it’s done non-commercially and they give me credit for my original work. Effectively, in this instance, I’m using the Internet to find a co-author.

At the same time, I’m marketing my book directly to agents. I’m not one to sit around waiting for mah monaaayyy to come to me. No, like Sgt. Rizzo, I go in search of it. Either an agent bites or an agent doesn’t bite. I get a deal or I don’t.

Then someone who saw my work under that Creative Commons license contacts me. “Hey,” he or she says. “I altered your work. I made it better. Want to read it? Maybe we can get it published.” Maybe, just maybe, it’s good enough that, if an agent hasn’t bit, the new, improved work gets a bite. Good for me, right? I’m a published author – though the ego has to take a hit, giving co-authorship to another.

But, Sgt. Rizzo says, in that comical drawl of his, “Lookit this way, Bub. Some monaaayy is better than none a’tall. Besides, just ‘cause this bozo got you in don’t mean you gotta keep him aroun’.”

Ego soars forward, bruised, but still mostly intact. The both of you sail into a book deal. The agent asks, “So, what y’all got for me next?” Maybe co-authorship isn’t that bad, right?

“Seems to me that sittin’ on that story with nobody readin’ it is like sittin’ on a log in winter in front of a fahr that’s ‘bout to go out,” Sgt. Rizzo says. “Throw that log in the fahr, hell yeah somebody else gonna share that heat. But you’ll get warm, too.”

Sergeant Rizzo, you’re as smart as my brother-in-law.

“Don’t go sayin’ stuff like that,” Sgt. Rizzo says. “I’m no college boy. Seems to me there are plenty o’ people out there who won’ care you’re the original author. Awl they wahnt is their monaaayyy, and if’n they gotta steal somethin’ o’ yours to get it, they’ll do it, quicker’n little Billy Bubba – ah tole you about mah boy, little Billy Bubba, right – will suck down a pecan pie. Or, they like what you got and they just don’t wanna pay you for it.”

That’s the protectivist chicken in me. So, next installment. What do literary agents think about Creative Commons licensing?


carl g said...

Gosh, I'm blushing.

I'm a big fan of CC licensing. I especially love Flikr's seamless integration of it into their service. It's more or less opt-out, and the result is that most photos on Flikr have a CC license attached to them by default. It makes the licit and respectful use of Flikr content very easy. I think all such content publication services, including Blogger, Wordpress, etc., should likewise have seamless, opt-out CC licenses attached.

If you haven't yet, you need to read up on tech publisher Tim O'Reilly's philosophy and vision of publication in the digital age. I'll post on it tomorrow. He's another Clay Shirky-ish visionary.

Mister Fweem said...

I look forward to reading what he/you have got to say. It's certainly an interesting topic. I do see a lot of promise in CC marketing really facilitating collaboration among people who don't know each other, and on marketing. Still, it's the wild west of the Internet for a lot of people. Still trying to find out what literary agents think on the subject. Not having much luck.